As Slate has been less-than-stellar about maintaining “The Breakfast Table,” a once-beloved feature that, regrettably, has since been allowed to languish, we asked the site’s editor Jacob Weisberg for permission to license it for our own usage, and he, of course, agreed, recognizing that low culture has always outshone his own tepidly downtrodden site in all the ways that matter, but most notably in the manner in which we’ve historically been very strong at using the format of two disparate-yet-complementary experts weighing in on the issues of the day. Also, he acknowledged how great we were with excessively long and unnecessarily verbose introductory sentences. He’s a good editor.
And with that, we introduce our two “Breakfast Table” panelists for this leisurely Friday afternoon; first, we have one Alex Pareene, a student of dramaturgical matters and working-class struggle, and Jean-Paul Tremblay, a self-employed and self-professed expert in theatrical composition and post-Jamesonian Marxism.
From: Jean-Paul Tremblay
To: Alex Pareene
Subject: Scooting out the door?
Friday, October 28, 2005, at 2:06 AM EST
I probably shouldn’t be starting our exchange yet, because it’s not yet dawn and I just got back from the loudest, most raucous fucking dress rehearsal ever, but I just got a hunch on the cab ride home from the theater that Libby’s going to go down today. I’ve traced this idea to a realization I had while watching my play’s lead actor limp around onstage in crutches, whereupon I saw that if the character had been unable to afford healthcare, we’d have had to reformat the setpieces such that the entire play was comprised of a conversation on a couch. Which’d be far more David Rabe than Luigi Pirandello, and you know how much I go for an early twentieth-century motif with my body of work. Anyways, the dude’s in crutches. And so is Libby, and Libby has money, and the crutches are his means of power…the money is the crutch. And the disability is his means of power. And if he’s indicted today, and goes down, it’ll totally be this unjust transfer of power. Why do I ingest so much ketamine when working with these dress rehearsals? I have to stop. It fucks with my mind and logistical reasoning.
From: Alex Pareene
To: Jean-Paul Tremblay
Subject: Puttin’ On the Fitz
Friday, October 28, 2005, at 10:25 AM EST
Pirandello, my friend, was an inspired reference — seeing Scooter Libby “go down,” as you put it, brought to mind nothing so much as Pirandello’s Enrico IV. Scooter, of course, is Berthold the valet. I see Cheney as the doctor and Judy Miller as Donna Matilda. The “mad” king is America itself, and today we learned that she is tired of wearing her mask.
“I just got a hunch,” you say. I keep coming back to those words. Hunches and crutches, those tired dramatic devices. The hunch, Richard III’s power, repugnant but impossibly attractive. The Neo-liberal hegemony fuctions in almost exactly the same fashion. And the crutch — not money, I think, but the classical liberal ideal of the social contract. It’s weakness, it’s bathos, the greatest enemy of neo-liberal society. I’ve been revising my musical revue of historical materialism (“Sing, Sang, Materialistische GeschichtsauffasSung!”), so my thoughts are a bit scattered at the moment, but I think the entire leak investigation can be read as a critique of the Annales school’s perversion of Marxist historiography. I’ll tell you what I mean by that as soon as I finish skimming the Wikipedia entry about them.
From: Jean-Paul Tremblay
To: Alex Pareene
Friday, October 28, 2005, at 4:04 PM EST
It’s really late in the afternoon, and I just woke up. Sorry about that. This is where the deconstructionist punster in me says, “Guess I missed ‘breakfast,’ huh?” And where you, the audience, groan.
Such audience participation is really what this whole Plame investigation was all about, I feel…with contributions from a range of professions as diverse as journalists and chiefs of staff. My theatrical production, premiering tonight, is derived from this participatory spirit, wherein I hope workers laboring within the coils of both Media and Government can unite to applaud the work of my crippled lead actor. Crippled by a staggering deficit, an astoundingly piss-poor educational system, and exposure to too much reality television.
In that vein, it’s good to know that the populace will be focusing on possible jail time for this Libby fellow. Which, perversely, could be a boon for all of academia…just think of what Antonio Gramsci produced while in prison. I’ve often thought about adapting his “Prison Notebooks” for the stage, but have consistently come up short in this regard. Whom would I cast as “Hegemony,” as you so briefly touch upon above? And in terms of undertaking such an adaptation, I never understood “hermeneutics” very much, to be honest.
I feel like such a sham. When people view my play tonight, they’re going to know how phony I am, and how much I’ve borrowed from the Italian master. “Six Characters in Search of an Author”? I feel like my rendition is more akin to “A Nobody in Search of Some Credibility.”
I hope you can make it. Coming by my show, I mean. I know you’ll “make it” in all the other ways that matter, kid. You’ve got talent. Me? I feel like I’m about to pull a Benjamin and shoot myself.
One reply on “Slate‘s Breakfast Table, but Not (A conversation about the news of the day)”
As I’m sure you know, Walter Benjamin was way too much of a lilly(Libby?)-livered coward to shoot himself. He committed suicide by an overdose of morphine. Or at least that’s what the Wikipedia says. I guess it’s all part of the “irony,” isn’t it? Or perhaps you were referring to Private Benjamin instead?